There will be many more coaching changes in high school football in Arizona as we move further into the off-season, but a few of those that will bear watching were made even before the calendar flipped to 2019.
Perhaps the most surprising coaching hire came in mid-December when Eastmark High School announced it had tapped Scooter Molander to take on the challenge of starting a football program at the new school about to open in the Queen Creek district.
No one knew for sure when, or if, Molander would return to coaching after resigning from his head-coaching position at BrophyPrep following the 2017 season to care for his long-divorced parents, who were in failing health at the time and living in different states.
His father passed away right after he left Brophy and his mother has since recovered, so Molander became a hot prospect for programs in need of one of the top coaches in the state. While at Brophy, Molander took his teams to the state playoffs in 11 out of 12 years before posting an uncharacteristic losing season in 2017 when the Broncos went 1-9 while Molander was dealing with the family issues. He won two state championships at the Catholic boys’ school in central Phoenix.
Eastmark, located in southeast Mesa, provides the Queen Creek district with a second high school to meet the demands of the population growth in the area over recent years and will begin next fall with just freshman and sophomore classes.
Molander’s hire at Eastmark started a domino effect, as generally happens when schools have to play musical chairs to find a new head coach. Mesa High School reportedly had Molander atop its list of candidates for the position vacated by Kap Sikahema following three consecutive losing seasons.
When Eastmark scooped up Molander, Mesa hired Chad DeGrenier, the head coach at Mesquite High School the last three seasons. That meant that Mesquite was suddenly in the market for a new head coach. But the Gilbert school didn’t have to spend a lot of time interviewing since Scott Hare decided to step down from his role as athletic director and return to the coaching sidelines.
DeGreiner has a high profile in the high school game. This is his fourth different school since leading Cave Creek’s Cactus Shadows High School to an undefeated season and state championship in 2006. From there, he went to Mountain View High School in Mesa and then Mesquite, which moved down from 5A to 4A in 2018 and posted a 5-5 record. He takes over a program that has had three straight losing seasons.
Hare has been out of coaching the last three years while serving as Mesquite’s AD. He is a transplant from Nevada, where he was a high school coach, and took over the Mesa High program for a couple of years before stepping away from the game to move into the athletic director’s chair.
And, finally, some of next season’s attention will have to fall on Central High School in Phoenix, where that football program decided to go in a different direction, hiring a new head coach just getting started on building his resume.
At age 24, Chandler Hovik became the youngest head football coach in the state when Central hired him last month. The 2012 graduate of Laveen’s Cesar Chavez High School became the program’s interim head coach last season when Jon Clanton was placed on leave following a dust-up with a rival coach who he accused of running up the score.
Hovik knows the game. He played quarterback at Cesar Chavez, finishing two years on the varsity with 3,600 yards and 30 touchdowns. Central is hoping that will translate to coaching success.
His first job will be a challenge. Central won two games last season. The other eight games they were outscored by 247 points.